Will court reporters become a symbol of the past? North Carolina is considering reducing the number of human reporters in courtrooms and using more digital recorders. It seems to be a battle of man vs. machine and the question is about saving time and money.
Recommendations of NC’s Administrative Office of Courts
A study conducted by North Carolina’s Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) in 2013 recommended the placement of digital recorders in courtrooms. While the digital machines are already used for most proceedings in district courts, the AOC wants them to be also used in Superior Court where graver criminal and civil trials take place.
The study was commissioned by the General Assembly with the aim to reduce costs. The state’s Senate had already moved to reduce the number of its staff of around 100 court reporters by up to 50%, and had used the savings, estimated to be around $2 million, for installing the digital recording equipment and hiring private reporters.
Recorders are Not Always Reliable
Court reporters of the state are anxiously waiting for the verdict of the legislature where the report’s findings will go. Meanwhile the AOC has clarified that it never intends to eliminate live reporters, but only rely on digital recordings for the administrative or routine matters leaving the human reporters to deal with the complex cases.
But that does not take away the fact that there is the intention to reduce the number of live reporters. Moreover, recorders have also known to be not quite reliable. Judges and lawyers believe that the cost savings, which is the expressed intention for reducing the number of live reporters, would be offset by the money and time spent on ensuring the digital recorders work reliably.
Importance of the Profession
Court reporters are integral to court proceedings. They generate accurate transcripts of the proceedings at depositions, trials, hearings, etc. They could also provide television captioning as well as real-time interpretations for the hearing imapired at meetings or public events. The transcripts are vital for future reference and uses such as appeals and habeas corpus. Court reporters also work for state governments in courts as well as legislatures and often rely on professional legal transcription services to ensure accurate and timely records of court proceedings.
In some states the court reporter must also be a notary public with the authorization for administering oaths to witnesses and also certifying the accuracy and verbatim nature of their transcript. Generally, states require a National Court Reporters Association certification.
No Total Replacement of Human Element
In their current state of technology, digital recorders cannot totally replace live reporters. Moreover, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment of court reporters will grow by 10% till 2022. North Carolina’s court reporters can breathe a sigh of relief as it seems the legal world just cannot do without them.